Exercises by Stages

Tai chi/qigong

Tai chi and qigong are gentle forms of Chinese martial arts that combine simple physical movements and meditation with the aim of improving balance and health. The movements concentrate on a series of integrated exercises believed to positively affect the mind, body and spirit. These forms of exercise focus on balance and stability which are important in staying agile and may reduce the risk of falls.


Walking can suit all abilities. It is free, does not need specialist equipment and can be done anywhere. The distance and time spent walking can be varied to suit fitness levels. Some local leisure centres and other organisations organise group walks of various lengths supported by a walk leader, so it can also be a social activity (see ‘Useful organisations’ at the end of this factsheet).

What is the right amount of activity in the early to mid stages of dementia?

People who are not currently active should be doing about 30 minutes of activity at least five days a week .This can be broken up into shorter sessions throughout the day, for example, a 15 minute walk to the local shops and then housework or gardening tasks in the afternoon. Regular physical activity is recommended to maximise benefits.

Exercise in the later stages of dementia

Physical activity can also be beneficial in the later stages of dementia. It may help to reduce the need for more supported care and minimise the adaptations needed to the home or surroundings. Exercises can range from changing position from sitting to standing, walking a short distance into another room or moving to sit in a different chair at each mealtime throughout the day.

Suggested exercises in the later stages of dementia

  • When getting up or going to bed, move along the edge of the bed, in the sitting position, until the end is reached. This helps exercise the muscles needed for standing up from a chair.
  • Balance in a standing position. This can be done holding onto a support if necessary. This exercise helps with balance and posture and can form part of everyday activities such as when showering or doing the washing up.
  • Sit unsupported for a few minutes each day. This exercise helps to strengthen the stomach and back muscles used to support posture. This activity should always be carried out with someone else present as there is a risk of falling.
  • Lie as flat as possible on the bed for 20-30 minutes each day. This exercise allows for a good stretch and gives the neck muscles a chance to relax.
  • Stand up and move regularly. Moving regularly helps to keep leg muscles strong and maintain good balance.

What is the right amount of activity in the later stages of dementia?

People in the later stages of dementia should be encouraged to move about regularly and change chairs, for example, when having a drink or a meal. There should be opportunities to sit unsupported (as far as possible) with supervision on a daily basis. A daily routine involving moving around the home can help to maintain muscle strength and joint flexibility.

When is exercise not appropriate?

If you experience pain while taking part, or after increasing activity levels, stop the exercise and seek medical advice.

Physical activity is not recommended for people who feel tired or unwell.

Exercise and well-being

A healthy lifestyle includes physical activity as part of a daily routine which will help to maintain well-being for as long as possible. Physical activity creates valuable opportunities to socialise with others and can help improve and maintain a person’s independence, which is beneficial both to people with dementia and their carers.

Every person is unique and will have different levels of ability and activities they enjoy. If you want to find out more about suitable exercise and physical activities, contact the GP or a physiotherapist.



All content © 2014 Alzheimer’s Society.


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